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Architects Imagine 3D Printing A Base On The Moon Using Lunar Soil

Foster + Partners have joined up with the European Space Agency to test the feasibility of creating structures on the Moon.

Emma Hutchings
Emma Hutchings on February 4, 2013.

The European Space Agency has partnered with a number of groups including architects Foster + Partners to test whether structures could be 3D printed on the Moon using lunar soil. In the future, this could offer a simpler way of facilitating lunar settlement using local materials.

Foster + Partners designed a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome with a cellular structured wall to protect against micrometeoroids and space radiation, and a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

Architects Imagine 3D Printing A Base On The Moon Using Lunar Soil

UK firm Monolite supplied a D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a six meter frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material that built up layer by layer. Monolite founder Enrico Dini explains:

First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper’ we can print with. Then for our structural ‘ink’ we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid. Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 m per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week.

Architects Imagine 3D Printing A Base On The Moon Using Lunar Soil

ESA

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